When Thomas Pynchon begins this novel, it's fairly apparent that the confusing sentence structures
and bizarre descriptions of events are deliberate attempts to hold the reader in a slight haze. When some writers do this,
one might immediately get the idea that their intention is to create a mystery that the reader must solve along with the characters
in the book. In the case of The Crying of Lot 49, the mystery is a huge one that not only engulfs the life of one character,
but the entire reality of the story. The world that the author has created is all seen from the perspective of Oedipa Maas,
therefor, when she loses her grasp on reality, reality itself becomes whatever she sees.
In most literature examples, the loss of reality has a counterbalance that the reader can base his or her perspective on.
For every fantasy, there is a reality, and likewise. It is the only way a person can compare and contrast the differences
found in the fantasy world. For example, how would we, as humans, know that the Genies featured in Arabic legends are a fictional
being if we could not say "Well, no one has ever really seen one"? T.V. and movies have become our fantasy level where we
can engage in things that are not found in our "real lives." In the world of Oedipa Maas, the line dividing the two has not
only blurred, but disappeared entirely. There is no way on God's Green Earth for her to label the sides accordingly, for everything
is fantasy and everything is also real.
Thomas Pynchon creates a small symbolism of this himself
by starting off the story describing elements of existence that truly exist and others that do not, and having them interact
with each other in a way that makes them all seem real. For example, there is a supposed world reknowed kazoo concerto (not
at all real) performing a piece that is actually quite famous (real in our world). Little combinations of fantasy and reality
such as this create a neo-reality in which there is no divider. Anything is possible and everything is likely. It is just
as if the characters of a sit-com, when they have left the scene in which the camera is recording, walk into your livingroom
to sit and watch the other scenes with you- until they have to go back on, of course! In essence, this story does more than
simply describe to us the confusion and oncoming insanity of a character. It sort of lets us experience it ourselves.
Diving further into themes of counterbalance, Oedipa, in any other story, would be viewed as insane because the reader or
viewer would compare her actions, thoughts, dialogue, and appearance to the other "sane" characters in the story. In The Crying
of Lot 49, the characters she interacts with are her disc-jockey pedophile husband Mucho Maas, her face-making Nazi psychiatrist
Dr. Hilarius, who shoots at her with a rifle when mistaking her for an Israeli, a horny teenage hotel employee named Miles
and his British-wannabe rock band (titled the Paranoids, no less), and a presumptuous child-star-turned-lawyer named Metzger.
What exactly are we working with, here?
Compared to these people, Oedipa actually appears
on the normal side, even with her "Hi, I'm Arnold Snarb and I'm looking for a good time" name tag and her obsession with an
underground mail system. So, if Oedipa's bizarre actions are starting to feel pretty comfortable to us as readers, does that
give some light to the argument that maybe the reader is being given a couple spoonfulls of the crazies...just often enough
to keep us in that world where nobody knows what the heck is real? In Oedipa's version of Southern California, there are secret
societies trying to distinguish their addictions for love by lighting fire to their gasoline-soaked neckties and hanging around
in homosexual-themed bars simply to illeviate any gender-related sexual relevancies that might exist. There is also an elaborate
conspiracy going on involving forged mail stamps, a scientific invention known as Maxwell's Demon, a Shakespeare-type stage
play involving a ridiculous amount of incest and the removal of a Cardinal's tongue which is eventually impaled on a sword
and set on fire. These things are supposed to be aspects of every-day life in the world of the novel. They are portrayed with
a mood of acceptance and no one seems to react strangely to them in the least. This is the sort of thing that can drive a
reader mad with sanity if he or she actually stops, pulls him or herself out of the novel, and realizes what sort of brainwashing
is going on. The effect is uncanny! We are just as crazy as they, and that's exactly what Thomas Pynchon wants.